This paper discusses external influences on innovation platforms (IPs) and the options for effective responses. The platforms examined in this paper were conceived as vehicles for facilitating institutional change in support of innovation that benefits smallholders, in selected agro-enterprise domains in Benin, Ghana and Mali. They were designed and implemented in a manner that enabled experimentation with processes of change in the selected domains. A Research Associate in each case facilitated the work of the IPs and applied Theory-Guided Process Tracing (TGPT) methodology to document the innovation processes pursued by platform members. The recorded data allow analysis of the external influences on the IPs. This paper first presents a typology as derived from literature of the main external influences on the domains of interest, and then uses the typology to analyse the influences on and responses of the IPs. The main influences were found to emanate from global, sub-regional and national levels. The IPs' responses were diverse but generally included reconstitution of the membership, lobbying, capacity-building among smallholders, and empowerment of smallholders by organizing provision of new knowledge, skills or financial resources. The paper highlights lessons drawn by the platform members in addressing the challenges involved. It concludes that external influences are important in determining the direction of socio-technical and institutional innovation.
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